Remember Tibor Rubin: Immigrant, Solider, Hero

A good man died the other day. His name was Tibor Rubin.

A Jew born in Hungary, Tibor was sent by his father in 1944 to live in Switzerland to escape Nazi occupation. He did not make it to the border and was arrested. Tibor was sent to Mauthausen concentration camp. He was fourteen. His father was sent to Buchenwald; his mother and younger sister to Auschwitz. None survived. In the spring of 1945 Tibor’s camp was liberated by American troops.

Three years later Tibor entered the U.S. and sought to join the Army; he was deferred until he improved his English. In 1950 he asked to be sent to Korean. His commander advised him against it since he was not yet a citizen. To which Tibor replied, “Well what about the others (soldiers)? I cannot leave my fellow brothers.”

According to his New York Times obituary, Rubin, now promoted to corporal, had more than enemy troops to worry about in Korea. His sergeant was a virulent anti-Semite and routinely sought to put Rubin in the heaviest of fighting. He was a brave solider, once “single-handedly held off a wave of North Korean soldiers for 24 hours” enabling his fellow soldiers to retreat. He was not so fortunate.

Badly wounded, Corporal Rubin was captured and interned in a Chinese Communist POW camp. The Chinese knew he was from Hungary, a fellow communist nation, and offered to repatriate him to his homeland. Rubin refused again choosing to stay with his mates.

As his obit notes, Rubin knew and understood how to cope with prison camp deprivation so he took it upon himself to care for the other men. He risked his life repeatedly to escape the camp confines to scrounge for food and supplies, always returning to share what he had stolen. He also served as nurse to the sick.

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First published on Forbes.com 12.15.15

VIDEO: The “I Trust You” Style of Management

“Don’t make me think about it!”

That was some advice an executive I know shared with one of his direct reports. The executive was not being flippant, he was letting his more junior colleague know that he wanted him to come with well-thought out plans of action.

He was delegating decision making to his subordinate and wanted this individual to pick up the ball and run with it.

Such advice is the opposite of micro-management; call it “I trust you” management. It is something that every executive needs to instill in his or her people.

By permitting employees to think and do for themselves, you prepare them for greater levels of responsibility.

First posted on Smart Brief on 10/02/15

Learn How to Turn Self-Awareness Into Self-Management

Everyone says self-awareness is essential to effective leadership. It is, but there is another aspect to awareness that may be equally compelling and sadly overlooked. It’s self-management.

It’s one thing to know yourself. We know what we do well. Yay! That’s why we are so good at what we do. We may even know what we are not so good at it so we ignore it. Boo! That can hurt us.

Enter self-management. Self-management is a form of self-control. We do not control events; we merely control how we respond to them. For instance, I know I have a tendency to become short with customer service agents who, let’s face it, have the thankless job of dealing with people like me who think we have better things to do with our time than waste it with people like them.

So after much trial and error, I have taught myself to be more polite. Not just polite but overly polite. I engage the agents in conversation. I act grateful. And I thank them for “making time for me.” Overkill? Perhaps! but it keeps me from flying off the handle.

The trigger itself is neutral; our reaction to it can be positive or negative. How we manage that reaction is critical to our ability to function as well as to excel.

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First posted on Smart Brief on 10.09.15

VIDEO: Re-Charge Yourself

Every good leader must make time for him or herself. Part of such time for self can be used to recharge and reinvigorate yourself.

Rejuvenation is essential, and in the video below are some ways to integrate it into your own life. There is something else that comes with rejuvenation — more energy. You feel better about yourself and often energized by the experience. Being energized is essential to the growth process but also to being able to try new things, even in your old job.

First posted on Smart Briefs 10.16.15

 

2105: Three Great Films for Leaders

I am not a movie critic, but I can pretend to be one for the length of time it takes you to read this quasi-review.

There are three films I have seen in 2015 which are must-watches for anyone interested in leadership. Each of the three films illuminate the human condition in ways that leaders must know intuitively and for that reason anyone concerned with what it makes to stand on principle and lead should go see.

First is Bridge of Spies. Starring Tom Hanks as James Donovan, an insurance lawyer drafted into defending a Soviet spy. Three years late he is asked by the CIA to go to East Berlin, just as the Wall is being constructed to liberate U2 pilot Gary Francis Powers. Not only must Donovan battle the Soviets and East Germans, he’s given scant support by the CIA who barely acknowledge him. Furthermore, his white shoe law firm turns its back on him for “helping the enemy.” Donovan was a righteous man and stood tall for what he believed and in the process served our nation well.

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First posted on Forbes.com 12.26.16

VIDEO: Banish Fear and Improve Learning

One of the big reasons change initiatives fail is because people do not like to be pushed out of their comfort zones.

That is only the surface emotion; a deeper reason is that people are uncomfortable with learning. It will mean absorbing new information, processing it and acting upon it.

Learning is intrinsic to change, and here is where leaders can exert their influence.

  • Embrace the process. The top leaders need to do it before everyone else and serve as the role models.
  • Teach what you know. Share your knowledge.
  • Be humble. Be open to new ideas and new learnings.

None of these techniques are new. In fact they are modeled after action-learning principles used in education in schools and professions worldwide.

The operative word for leaders is to engage; get involved in the learning process as student and teacher, and watch good things happen.

First posted on 10/30/15 on SmartBriefs 10/30/15

How to Win Your Next Argument

Passion may hurt you more than help you in your next argument.

That’s a conclusion of new research into persuasion by a pair of university academics and reported by Shankar Vedantam of NPR. Passion, often highly prized by leaders, may actually work against that leader if he or she is trying to reach out to someone who may not agree with them. Passion works when communicating people who share your point of view but it actually does the opposite to those with whom you disagree. Anyone who has argued politics – or the merits of Star Trekover Star Wars (or vice versa) — can attest. [More on Trek vs. the Force in a moment.]

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First posted on Forbes.com 12/19/15

VIDEO: Think and Act Positively

How do you motivate yourself?

That’s a question I sometimes get and when I do I like to give a three-word answer: Accentuate the positive! It’s the title of a Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer tune from the 1940s.

Also consider the maxim that legendary basketball coach John Wooden used to preach: “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

That simple statement offers such clarity. So often we sabotage ourselves by thinking negatively. We may posit a lofty intention and then we de-loft it when we weigh the obstacles in our path.

Indeed the biggest obstacle may not be a boss or a circumstance — it is ourselves. And so we kill our motivational motor just as it begins to turn over.

Instead, learn to “accentuate the positive.”

First posted on Smartbrief 11.13.15

When You Present, Don’t Preach

Without a trace of irony, the CEO looks straight at the young Ph.D. analyst and says, “Speak as you might to a young child, or a golden retriever. It wasn’t brains that got me here, I assure you.”

That memorable line is from the movie Margin Call, the fictionalized story of the collapse of a Wall Street investment company. The CEO (played by Jeremy Irons) is not being facetious; his tone and manner (seen here on YouTube) reflects exactly what many senior executives want: simple explanations, not in the weeds details. Sadly too many rising executives fail to understand their bosses’ desire quick explanations. And so when they present to their higher ups they believe it is their duty or even their obligation to go on long, too long.

This disconnect arises for one or more of the following reasons: one, they believe they need to show what they know and prove it to everyone; two, they fail to realize that senior managers do not want to know how the sausage is made only that is available; and three, they believe in the law of plenty – if one fact is good; three are better.

You can sum up these failings with a simple statement: when presenting to a senior executive your job is to inform not educate. Executives want information so they can make up their own minds; they don’t need explanations that will be perceived as extraneous and irrelevant. And, very important, they do not want interpretation.

Continue reading here…

First posted on Forbes.com 12.05.15

VIDEO: Truth Will Set You (and Your) People Free

Governance is the challenge that faces every leader. The ability to get things done is management’s role.

The ability to inspire people to get those things done right is a leader’s responsibility. Trust is vital to inspiration.

Mark Twain opined, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

This is good advice for anyone seeking to provide backbone to governance and substance to actions that benefit individuals as well as organizations.

First posted on SmartBrief 12.04.2015